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Looking Back At A Monday Night Game To Forget

Posted by Matt Terl on November 15, 2010 – 9:17 am

On September 16, 2002, I was at graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I didn’t have NFL Sunday Ticket yet, so it still felt like a pretty big deal to have the Redskins on national TV for the Monday Night Game. It was the beginning of the Steve Spurrier era — I’m not sure if two seasons constitutes an era, but that’s what we thought at the time — and the possibilities seemed limitless. We hosted some of my fellow grad students at our place for the game, and I mainly remember talking pregame trash with an Eagles fan by the unlikely name of Starlet.

If you didn’t know anything about the game and you were to look at the picture of Jacquez Green above, you might think that I was able to keep jawing throughout the game. That would not be precisely correct; Green’s second-quarter punt return touchdown represented the only Redskins points for the night.

By halftime, with the Redskins trailing 23-7, I wasn’t talking any more trash, and by the middle of the third quarter even Starlet had been overcome with pity; the whole gathering had fallen into a vaguely uncomfortable silence. The possibilities of the Steve Spurrier era no longer seemed so limitless, as SI.com’s Don Banks grimly recounted at the time:

“The most apparent realization produced by the Eagles’ blowout victory?” Banks wrote. “Offensive genius or not, Spurrier isn’t going to win many games with the likes of Matthews or Danny Wuerffel at quarterback. Not when there’s a Donovan McNabb in the other team’s pocket, and not when there’s a quality defense lined up against you.” And that wasn’t even the harshest criticism in Banks’ piece.

But the beatdown isn’t the main thing that folks remember about the game now. The only person who was on the Redskins roster in 2002 that’s still around to chat with is coaching intern Chris Samuels, and his primary memory of the game focuses on a moment in the fourth quarter when play was halted because, as the AP story explains, “police used pepper spray to break up a fight in the stands.”

“It wasn’t too long after the terrorist attacks on 9/11,” Samuels told me last week, “so it was pretty scary. I thought it was another attack or something like that. Everybody kinda panicked on the sideline.”

The gas got caught in the cooling fans on the Eagles’ sidelines and blown across their bench, causing several players and team staffers to become sick.

Samuels was the only then-Redskin who’s still around, but two current Redskins were on the Eagles sidelines at the time.

For Donovan McNabb, it’s not a game that stands out — just another win fairly early in his illustrious career — but he does remember the gas. Read more »

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Other Offensive Linemen Have Confidence In Trent Williams

Posted by Matt Terl on September 10, 2010 – 2:20 pm

Redskins rookie Trent Williams is pretty philosophical about the fact that his first regular season blocking assignment will likely come against Cowboys four-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.”It would be easier to start off with someone not as good,” Williams said, “but it sets the stage.”

More than that, though, it can set the tone for the rest of his season — or longer. The offensive linemen I talked to all remembered the first big-name guy they lined up across from, and they all said they learned from the experience.

“My first game was against Carolina,” Jammal Brown said. “Julius Peppers. We went out there and won. No sacks, no pressures.”

“It was Jason Taylor,” Stephon Heyer said. “We ended up winning that game, I ended up doing pretty good.”

Artis Hicks also faced off against Taylor early in his career. “He was still in his prime in Miami,” Hicks said. “He was coming off another Pro Bowl year, a high digit sack number, and there I was, a young guy. I just remember thinking, Man! y’know? This is the real deal.

And there’s something to be gained from knowing you can compete in that real deal. Read more »

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The Offensive Line Gets In Some Post-Practice Reps

Posted by Matt Terl on August 18, 2010 – 6:20 pm

A whole bunch of offensive linemen stayed behind today after practice,doing technique work and some individual drills. The group included all five presumed offensive line starters, as well as Chad Rinehart, Edwin Williams, and coaching intern Chris Samuels.

“We do that after every practice,” Derrick Dockery told me, “not just today. We have to, you know, lead this group. If we don’t do our job up front, we’re gonna have a tough season this year. We have to bounce back from the terrible season we had last year, giving up almost 50 sacks. We have to do better this year.”

So one of the ways they thought they might be able to achieve that was by deciding — “collectively, as a group,” Dockery says — to do extra technique work as often as possible.

“At the end of the day,” Casey Rabach said, “it’s always good to end on a little technique.”

Artis Hicks agreed. “It helps out a lot,” he said. “Any extra you can do definitely pays off in the end, and when you’re out there it’s kinda hard to pay attention to a lot of the fundamentals. Things are moving at 100 miles per hour, and you’ve got big guys in front of you. But when practice is over, you can stay out, take an extra few sets, and really kinda work on your craft a little bit.”

Which is good to hear, especially (as Dockery notes) after some of the performances last season. And, really, I figured that was the whole story — after a spirited practice, the offensive line made a point to get some extra work in. Everyone is happy. Hooray.

Then Hicks decided to explain Edwin Williams’s main role in the technique sessions, and that was clearly something that needed to be mentioned as well. Read more »

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Artis Hicks On Brett Favre's Supposed Retirement

Posted by Matt Terl on August 3, 2010 – 1:36 pm

It used to be that Jason Campbell was the resident Brett Favre expert. They grew up in rural towns very near one another in Mississippi, and whenever Favre would retire or unretire or whatever, Campbell was the guy that the local media would go to for quotes. That, obviously, is no longer an option.

But when news started emerging today that Favre might actually be, you know, retiring FOR REALS, the scramble was on to find a Redskins-related angle to the news. Safeties coach Steve Jackson seemed like a promising choice when he revealed that he had faced off against Favre in the Senior Bowl before they began their NFL careers, but when pressed for details he laughed and said, “What happens in Mobile stays in Mobile.” (Which was surely, as one observer noted, the first time THAT particular sentence has ever been uttered.)

Head coach Mike Shanahan coached Favre in the Pro Bowl, but remained wary of the reports, noting, “I’ve gotta see it before I believe it.”

And then I thought of new offensive lineman Artis Hicks. Hicks played in all sixteen games in Minnesota last year, starting three, and — as you can see from the photo above — has even been the recipient of the exuberant Favre hugs that announcers like so much. His reaction, despite all of the rumors and the back-and-forth and the neverending speculation, was surprise.

“I’m shocked,” Hicks told me, “big time. If he’s saying that he can’t do it because of that ankle, then that’s what it is, because he’s such a committed guy. We saw it last year, when he showed up he was a hundred percent all in. So you know it’s a serious issue and he’s just not comfortable with it.”

Still, Hicks was philosophical about the news. “Sometimes that just how the cookie crumbles,” he said. “If it truly is over for him, he had a great run. He should have no regrets. Even though last year ended on an interception, there are some other things that could’ve happened a little differently that wouldn’t’ve put him in that situation, maybe. It was just how it came down.”

What was most interesting about Hicks’s description of working with Favre — especially from a Redskins perspective — was what he said when I asked if they had given Favre a hard time with his inability to make a decision.

Read more »

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The Offensive Line Gets Used To Chris Samuels, Coach (And To Someone Else Wearing 60)

Posted by Matt Terl on May 21, 2010 – 2:28 pm

Redskins seventh-round draft choice Selvish Capers is learning a lot as he gets used to life on the professional level.

“It’s different,” Capers says. “It’s a lot faster, there’s a lot more that they’re putting in and installing at one time, but I can pick it up. The veterans are there helpin’ me out throughout the process. I’ve been grateful and it’s been fun.”

And Capers isn’t just dealing with the usual rookie whiplash. He’s also wearing number 60, which — for the entire last decade — belonged to all-pro, all-star, all-everything left tackle Chris Samuels.

The pressure doesn’t daunt Capers, though. “Not really,” he says. “Not much. I just keep hearin’ that I’m wearin’ a big-time jersey, and it’s probably gonna be retired, and all this other stuff. We’ll see what happens.”

So far, the only thing that’s happened is that his teammates are slightly confused. I ask center Casey Rabach how he feels about seeing someone else wearing 60 after all this time.

He says, “Who is?”

Selvish Capers, I say.

Read more »

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Artis Hicks Addresses The Media

Posted by Matt Terl on March 18, 2010 – 11:31 am

Pro Bowl linebacker London Fletcher and new offensive lineman Artis Hicks addressed the media today, and — as Rick Maese of the Washington Post tweeted — what the two guys said can pretty much be summarized as “We’re excited.” Or, in marginally more paraphrased detail: “The atmosphere in the building is optimistic, the new coaching staff is impressive, the transition to the 3-4 defense won’t be nearly as tricky as some people think, and we’re all excited.” It was not a press conference that’s going to wind up in a loop on SportsCenter, that’s for sure.

Despite that, it was the first time I’ve had a chance to hear Artis Hicks speak at length, and I figured it was worth noting some of the things he said actually in his own words. Like these, for example, which will probably speak to what every Redskins fan wants to hear:

On what to expect from the offense:
“I think we’re definitely gonna run the ball and set things up off of that. If you look back over the course of Shanahan offenses over the years in Denver, everything was based off of the run. It helped the quarterback out a lot when you’ve got a great running game. We’ve got some great running backs here, and if we can just do our part up front to give those guys some lanes, man, it will be a great year for us I think.”

Meanwhile, the refrain we’ve been hearing about Hicks since he signed is that he’s versatile and can play just about any offensive line position, so that’s the angle a lot of questions took. For example:
Read more »

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Redskins Sign Offensive Lineman Artis Hicks

Posted by Matt Terl on March 6, 2010 – 10:25 pm

After an uncharacteristically quiet start to the free agent signing period, the Redskins inked their first free agent from another team today: former Minnesota Vikings guard Artis Hicks. Hicks adds depth and experience to an offensive line that often seemed to need both of those things last year; it seems reasonable to assume that Hicks will be competing for the right guard spot, although he also has experience at tackle.

Read more »

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